Ransom: Hero and Priam

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‘In asking for the return of his son’s body, Priam seeks to transcend his role as a king and transform himself into a man, thereby acquiring a universal significance as the hero of an epic narrative.’ Discuss.

David Malouf’s Ransom, a postmodern revisitation of Homer’s literary epic, the Iliad explores the monumental transformation of Priam, King of Troy, from a ‘ceremonial figurehead’, a synecdochal representation of the royalty of his era, to an unconventional hero who, ‘stripped of all glittering distractions and disguises’ appeals directly to Achilles, ‘the most unpredictable of Greeks’ to return the body of his son Hector. In discordance with the conventional depiction of a hero in Ancient Greek literature as a fearsome warrior, Malouf’s definition of a hero manifests itself in Priam and to some extent Achilles. Throughout the novel, Malouf insinuates the ambivalent nature of the idea of heroism, challenging the notion that a heroic act is one that is merely physical. Indeed, a key idea championed by Malouf through Ransom is that of beauty in the ordinary, an idea that can be extended to encompass Malouf’s definition of heroism. Inherent in Ransom is also the idea of humanity, with Priam recognising that to retrieve Hector’s body, he needed to appeal to Achilles ‘as a man, a father’ and offer the Greek hero the chance to take on the lighter bond of being simply a man’. It is in this way that Priam subverts the stereotypical notion of a king and as ‘a man’ embraces the ‘realm of the incidental and the ordinary’ and views Somax, the symbolic representation of the common man, as a ‘companion.’

It is Priam’s acceptance of the notion of chance that initially defines his emotional transformation. Priam’s encounter with Iris, the goddess who incepts the ‘blasphemous’ idea of ‘chance’ in him is significant, not only in that instils in Priam a firm conviction that he would be successful in his quest, but because it marks Priam’s defiance towards the Gods, and...
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